Issue Date: March 10, 2008
Five administrators from leading Chinese universities got a whirlwind tour of five chemistry departments in three cities across the U.S. last month. The American Chemical Society organized the visit to help chemistry departments in both countries share information and experiences on how they support teaching and research.
"Any discussion of the global aspects of chemistry immediately turns to China," said ACS President Bruce E. Bursten, who participated in the visit. He hopes the event "will mark the beginning of some new partnerships that ACS can build between the U.S. and China."
During the visit, which took place from Jan. 26 to Feb. 4, leaders of the chemistry colleges and departments at China's Peking University, Nankai University, Nanjing University, Xiamen University, and Tsinghua University met with their counterparts at the University of Toledo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
"The history of China is long, but the history of Chinese universities is not," commented Song Gao, dean of the college of chemistry and molecular engineering at Peking University. He thanked ACS and the U.S. hosts for giving him and his colleagues from China the opportunity "to learn more about how U.S. departments are run."
Among the things Zijian Guo, dean of Nanjing University's school of chemistry and chemical engineering, found most valuable about the visit was learning "how U.S. chemistry departments help young investigators with great potential" succeed. The visiting deans were also interested in how their U.S. counterparts make tenure decisions, encourage and support interdisciplinary research and teaching, and manage department-wide instrument facilities.
The visit convinced participants from both sides that they had much in common. For example, as it is in the U.S., "recruiting students to study chemistry is a challenge in China," said Peng Cheng, vice dean of the college of chemistry at Nankai University. The Chinese deans and their U.S. hosts shared strategies for sparking young people's enthusiasm for the discipline, including innovative college courses and National Chemistry Week celebrations.
Roundtable discussions with ACS journal editors gave the editors the opportunity to learn more about chemical research in China and gave the Chinese delegates a chance to learn more about the journals' editorial scope, manuscript submission, and peer-review practices. In addition, the Chinese delegates sat down with representatives from Chemical Abstracts Service to learn how U.S. universities use SciFinder Scholar to support chemical research.
The visit, which was initiated by chemistry professors Zi-Ling (Ben) Xue of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Herbert D. Kaesz of UCLA, was coordinated by the society's International Activities Committee (IAC) and the Office of International Activities (OIA).
"This program has provided us with a unique opportunity to establish lasting ties to work together to raise the profile of chemistry and the solutions it can offer to address global challenges," said IAC Chair Nina I. McClelland, who supported the initiative and organized the visit with the help of Bradley D. Miller, director of OIA.
"ACS has an opportunity to lead the way in engaging the global chemistry community," added ACS Board of Directors member Marinda L. Wu, who participated in the program. "We took a giant step toward that goal with this visit."
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